A draft Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill for 2016 will soon be taken to Parliament for approval, Attorney General, Levi Peter has announced.
Peter made that announcement while addressing a press briefing held at the Financial Centre, in the Office of the National Authorising Officer on Monday.
The Ministry of Justice, Immigration and National Security has been involved in a process which started in March of 2015, where concerns were raised by members of the public as well as persons involved in the legal profession as it relates to inadequacies in the Sexual Offensive Act of 1998 as it currently stands. In October 2015 a special committee was appointed under the chairmanship of legal Consultant, Ray Harris to look at the provisions of the Act and to make some recommendations for amendments.
In January 2016 Mr. Harris submitted the report to the Justice Minister, Rayburn Blackmoore with an Amendment Bill to the Sexual Offences Act.
“The report and the draft bill are now with the chambers of the Attorney General; in fact it is with me. I have commenced looking at it, I have some observations…and there will be some further discussion,” Peter said. “I would anticipate that those discussions should not take an extensive period of time.”
According to Peter there are some areas which he observed that need clarification.
He went on to say that he is confident in the very near future that, “the draft Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill 2016 will be in a position that it can be taken to Cabinet, hopefully Cabinet will approve it with or without further amendment…thereafter it will be taken to Parliament for debate, hopefully approval and subsequent enactment via the President.”
“I think the Draft Bill, if and when its enacted, will substantially improve our legislative landscape in so far as sexual offenses,” he noted.
Peter indicated that there are a number of areas of amendment, some more extensive than others and there has been the introduction of offenses which are new to the jurisdiction in Dominica.
“The Bill comprises of 17 sections and obviously within those sections there are various sub-sections, so in total it is quite an extensive piece of work,” Peter noted.
Meantime Harris said Government has been working assiduously, through the sexual offenses committee, who have been meeting stakeholders, “going on radio stations, and the reality is we are hoping that soon enough there will be an Amendment Bill.”
In recent times there has been a spate of sexual offences before the high court, with Judge Errol Thomas has called on society to “speak out and find ways of helping the situation.”